If young minds are indeed shaped forever by the age of four or five, it makes sense to instill as many traditional values in them as soon as possible.
That’s the theory behind a children’s book written by Keath and Alyssa Killebrew, a farm family of the Mississippi Delta who produce peanuts, corn, cotton, soybeans, rice and wheat, and equate raising children to raising a crop.
Their collaborative effort, Charlie the Peanut, is about growing up on a farm, and passing on agriculture’s lessons to succeeding generations. “Raising a crop is like rearing a child, both need proper attention, encouragement and discipline,” Alyssa said.
The idea for the book came to Keath one night during peanut planting season. The book’s premise — to grow where you are planted — comes from the Killebrews’ belief that the most important of life’s wonders can be found close to your own doorstep. Characters in the book are based on people the Killebrews know, and Charlie the Peanut’s character is inspired by their great dane, Charlie.
In her current job as a mental health therapist, Alyssa has observed that the most common problem in children she’s worked with “is they wish they were somewhere else, with someone else doing something else. They’re never totally content. Sometimes that’s for good reason where there might be abuse or neglect.
“But other times, there is just discontent. Adults are the same way. We think if we had something different, we’d be much happier. Then, when we get what we think we want, we’re still not happy. So the message in the book is not just for children. No matter where you are and who you’re with, try to make the best of it.
“We’ve had an amazing response to the book,” said Aylssa, who frequently reads the book to children in Mississippi schools, followed up by an agriculture lesson where she lets students examine samples of corn, wheat, peanuts and other crops.
“The farm life is the good life,” Keath added. “It is important for children to learn about agriculture and how crops are harvested.”
The Killebrews live “the simple life” on Horseshoe Lake just outside of Tchula, Miss. The Killebrews are high school graduates of Central Holmes Academy in Lexington, Miss. Keath has farmed all his life. Alyssa attended the University of Mississippi and received her bachelor’s degree from Belmont University, and a master of education in community counseling from Delta State University in 2006.
The book is illustrated by Chris Jenkins, from Greenwood, Miss. For more information or to order, visit Charlie the Peanut.
The book also has a recipe for homemade peanut butter, a section on how to plant peanuts and a question and answer section on agriculture-related history.
Alyssa is the daughter of Billy Ellis, Mississippi author of “Tithes of Blood” and “Hunter to the Dawn.”
To sample the opinions of readers closer to the book’s target audience, we invited students in the Writing and Loving It program at St. George’s Episcopal Day School in Clarksdale, Miss., to read Charlie the Peanut, and submit reviews to Delta Farm Press. WALI, taught by Mrs. Robin Cocke, encourages writing at an early age. The students are members of Mrs. Shirley Easley’s fourth grade class and Mrs. Mary Beth Peters’ third grade class. Following are a sample of the reviews.
If you like reading children’s adventure books with lots of problems and conclusions, then you should read Charlie the Peanut, written by Keath and Alyssa Killebrew, illustrated by Chris Jenkins.
The background and pictures are drawn well and the book has a great moral. The characters were very fun and Charlie was also adventurous. I appreciated the way it mentioned all the Delta crops.
The actions are great. It was clever the way the bluebirds transported Charlie to a faraway land. I liked it when Charlie jumped in the cotton and when he sneezed the bee away on the flower. It was funny when the dog got stung by an ant and ran away, “Arring!”
Charlie the Peanut has trite conventions: “Once upon a time,” the title, Charlie the Peanut, “The End,” and the ending (which I’m not going to tell here).
The story has too much explanation and has undeveloped settings and plots. There were two unnecessary parts: When Charlie met the crows and when Charlie slept in the soybean field.
Charlie the Peanut is a great book, though, and I recommend this book to all people aged 3-7.
— Madeleine Levingston (Fourth Grade)
Do you like to read funny books that have adventures? If you do, you need to read Charlie the Peanut. It is about a peanut who gets himself in an adventure. He goes to a cotton field, an ant pile, sleeps on a flower (and almost gets stung by a bee) and more! Charlie is an adventurous peanut, but after a long while he starts to miss his mommy. But, don’t worry, because this is all a dream!
I thought this book was very funny and very interesting. My favorite part was when Charlie sees a dog and runs into an ant pile. When an ant comes out of the pile and crawls up the dog’s nose and bites him, the dog “ARR”s all the way home! I fell out laughing. It also has all of the Delta crops in the book and the illustrations were really good.
I recommend this book to children and adults with a good sense of humor.
— Ashley Russell (Fourth Grade)
Do you like peanuts? Then you should read Charlie the Peanut. It’s about a peanut named Charlie. He runs away from home though he is not supposed to. He goes through all the Delta farm crops and has adventures.
I recommend this book for children aged 3-5 because it is funny and adventurous, even though it gives too much explanation and could have a better beginning. It has silly little parts and the illustrations are bright and colorful—perfect for babies.
— Molly Cooke (Fourth Grade)
Charlie is a peanut living on a farm with his family. He decides to leave and go on an adventure. When a bird carries him away and he does all kinds of other things on his adventure, he begins to miss his family. Read and find out how he gets back home.
I liked the book. I think it would be best for preschool to first graders. I liked it because it is very exciting and names all the crops that grow in the Mississippi Delta. It also has a good moral.
What I would change about it is the beginning and the end. It starts with “Once upon a time…” and ends with “The End.”
The illustrations are very pretty. They are in color. Anyone would enjoy the illustrations to this good book.
— Evelyn Humber (Fourth Grade)
I want you to read Charlie the Peanut. Charlie is going to get lost far, far away from home and he gets picked up by a bluebird and he meets different animals. He falls into a cotton field and he keeps finding flowers and other things. When he wakes up he hears his mother calling, “Charlie, Charlie, wake up!” Was his adventure real or just a dream? Read more about Charlie’s adventures.
My favorite part is when Charlie gets picked up by the bluebirds. And, I also like the lesson: Grow where you are planted.
— LaShonta Benson (Third Grade)
Do you like adventures? Well, if you do, you should read Charlie the Peanut. In this book, Charlie always wanted to go away from home, and that is exactly what’s going to happen to him. One day Charlie decided to play with the bluebirds. One of the bluebirds sneaked up behind him and swoosh! He was immediately taken far, far from home. Well, will Charlie ever make it home, or is it all just a dream? Read the book to find out!
My favorite part is when Charlie visits different places. Also when he finds out where he is. My favorite character is Charlie because he likes to get away from home sometimes like I do.
— Jordan Perry (Third Grade)
Charlie, the peanut, had a family: Baby Peanut, Mama Peanut and Daddy Peanut. They lived on a farm. Charlie wanted to explore the world, but his mama wouldn’t let Charlie leave through the gate. He did not listen to his mama, so he went with the bluebirds. The bluebirds flew off with Charlie to a cotton farm. Charlie jumped on the cotton all day long. He was so tired he fell asleep on the cotton and he woke up crying because he missed his family. He walked until his feet hurt. Then he thought he saw his home, but it was really sunflowers. He slept again on one of them, and a bee came out of it. He sneezed and blew it away. Then he went to a different farm. He saw a dog and ran away to an ant pile. The dog stuck his nose in the ant pile and fire ants came up and stung the dog’s nose. He heard his mama. Charlie woke up and realized it was just a dream and he was glad.
— Cameron Stubbs (Fourth Grade)
I liked this book because it teaches a lesson: Never go away from home without your parent’s permission. I personally did not like the part when Charlie meets the crows. I didn’t think that it was very necessary. I did like the part when Charlie found his parents after he had been lost, but I also liked how all the Delta farm crops were in the book.
— Louise Etheridge (Fourth Grade)
I personally think Charlie the Peanut would be a great book for ages 3-6. Charlie the Peanut tells kids, “You’re fine where you are, so don’t try to change it.” I think the illustrations were classily colorful. They stand out.
It was good that the book included all the Mississippi crops. Younger children need to know their land. Charlie is adventurous, and I think that it’s good for kids to be adventurous. Kids shouldn’t grow up in a shell.
I highly recommend this book.
— Anna Carson Tyner (Fourth Grade)
Who has two legs, two arms and a peanut head? Charlie the Peanut! This book is about Charlie, a peanut who finds himself lost on a farm. He looks for his family, but he cannot find them.
I only give this book a 4.5 because it starts with “Once upon a time,” and says “The End” after the dream ending. The title was not very descriptive.
The way to improve the book would be to describe a little bit more.
This is a book for children ages 3 to 7, I would say.
— Alison Fullilove (Fourth Grade)
Charlie the Peanut is a good book. Charlie has lots of adventures like the time when he was picked up by a bluebird. It is a good book for little kids. They will like it.
— Scotlan Robertson (Fourth Grade)
I think this book is good, but it needs some changes. I like the part where the dog gets bitten and that all the Delta crops are in it, but I think the authors need to change the end. I do not like the part where it says it was all a dream. I think it needs to be a real adventure. This book would be good for little kids.
— Peyton Cohen (Fourth Grade)
Charlie lived on a farm. He had a mom, a dad and a baby. Charlie was carried off by blue birds and landed on some cotton. The cotton was soft. He jumped on it. He got tired. He saw some sunflowers that looked like the sun and soft. He went to sleep on one. When he woke, a bee was staring him in the eye. He sneezed the bee away. He heard a dog, so he got an ant to crawl up the dog’s nose and sting it. The dog went away. He saw some crows by some corn. He asked for help. They said yes. They flew over a soybean plant. When he got home, his mom and his dad gave him hugs. Now he always listens to his mom.
I liked the background description. Jumping on cotton looked fun and so did every thing else. I didn’t like the moral and I liked everything else.
— Nathan Kervin (Fourth Grade)
Charlie is an adventurous peanut who lives on a farm with his mamma, daddy and baby peanut. This book is a funny book in some of the parts. I liked when the dog went away “Arring,” and when Charlie was jumping on the cotton. I think that this book is for kids that are younger than I am. This is a book that I’d liked to read to preschoolers. I don’t think that they should have put at the end of the book, “The End.” I also think they should have started with something other than “Once upon a time.”
— K’Mya Cosby (Fourth Grade)
I like how the fire ant stung the dog and how he was just asleep in the end, because I would be scared to death if that was me. It was fun when the dog went away and said, “AARRR!” I bet that cotton was really soft. Charlie was proud he was adventurous, but he had to be sick when those bluebirds transported him away.
— Alonzo Reed (Fourth Grade)
Do you like peanuts? If you do, you should read Charlie the Peanut. It is a great book about a peanut that gets lost far, far from his home. He also meets other creatures. What I liked about the book is that it was about a peanut. Most books aren’t about peanuts. That’s why I liked the book. I think grades first to third would like this book. Read the book to find out more about Charlie and his adventures.
— Mallory Matthews (Third Grade)
Do you like adventures? Well, if you do, then this is the book for you. This is a book about a peanut called Charlie. Charlie has an adventure or does he really have an adventure? Read the book to find out.
My favorite part was when the dog got stung by the ant. Charlie lives in a field, and he visits lots of others. You will like Charlie the Peanut.
— Mac McKee (Third Grade)
Charlie was crawling on an anthill when the fire ant stung the dog and the dog cried all the way home. That was one of my favorite parts. Another was when Charlie sneezed a bee away and slid down a sunflower. Everywhere Charlie went, he cried because he missed his family.
— Cody Gordon (Third Grade)